My guest author today is multi-talented Crystal Stanaghan. She is the author of six published picture books for children, three early reader chapter books and four upcoming non-fiction titles for adults. She has worked as a publisher, editor, book designer, publishing consultant, and creative writing mentor on numerous projects. Crystal is an experienced workshop facilitator, and has taught groups ranging in age from pre-school students to adults on topics including: writing, web-marketing, publishing, wellness, goal setting and the business of making books. Crystal is the Publisher of Gumboot Books (www.gumbootbooks.com) – a Vancouver publisher that specializes in books for children and youth. Through the Self Publishing Network (www.selfpublishingnetwork.info) which she co-founded, she also works as a consultant and project coordinator for people publishing their own projects of all kinds.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
I've been creating stories my whole life, and decided when I was about 8 years old that I was going to be a writer when I grew up. I haven't really grown up yet, but I started to take the writing a whole lot more seriously about 6 years ago when I finished my Masters degree. I've always had wide ranging interests as far as books and life are concerned, and that's definitely reflected in the genres I like to work in. Children's books, romantic thrillers, non-fiction and self-help are my favourites.
Briefly tell us about your latest book.
My most recently published title is The Pirate Who Lost His Aarrr! (illustrated by Marcus Wild). It's a picture book, but for the older end of that spectrum (age 6-9). The story and themes are a bit more complex and the illustration style has strong graphic novel elements to it, so it appeals especially to boys in that age range. It's a tale of pirates, gold, and a cursed Captain - but is also about learning to hold on to your temper.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
In all of my books there is some kind of message, but I do try to make sure that it's subtle and something that the readers have to figure out for themselves. My training as a psychologist is put to good use in my children's books and I've dealt with a variety of topics over the years. The environment, facing your fears, anger management and more - but always in a way that's woven into a fun story and the learning takes a back seat to really engaging readers in the story.
Does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Absolutely. Geographically for sure - I have a teen novel and a romantic thriller I'm working on that are both set in the small coastal BC town that I was born in called Ocean Falls. It's essentially a ghost town now, and makes a great setting for spooky stories. I have spent a lot of time in small towns (in various countries) and that comes through in the settings and types of stories I choose. My first book was called Then It Rained - which was definitely inspired by the local weather!
In a family sense, I was blessed with an adventurous family who and are also very encouraging of whatever I'm working on. They've provided great inspiration over the years, and the lessons we learned (caring for the world around you, treating people like you'd want to be treated etc.) are definitely topics that have come up in my children's books in particular. Vernon and the Snake (Gumboot Books 2007) was actually written for my Grandfather Vernon - who is petrified of garter snakes. My mom always told me to put myself in their shoes - and understand that to them, I was the monster. That all came together in this book as the story is told from the Snake's point of view on one side, and Vernon's on the other.
In my non-fiction, it comes out in the firm belief that anyone can learn to do anything-if they're stubborn enough, believe they can, and keep an open mind. Also, my parents are both great at explaining things to people, and really patient, and I think that had a direct impact on my own teaching style and on my writing. They also were really involved in the community and always contributing time and energy to various fundraising projects and A World of Stories is a direct result of their examples. That's a project we put together to raise money for literacy through Rotary Clubs.
What are your current projects?
Right now, I'm working on several different writing projects in different genres. In children's books, I'm working on books 2 and 3 of a series called The 13th Floor, illustrated by Izabela Bzymek. The first one in the series came out last year from Gumboot Books (The 13th Floor: Primed for Adventure).
I also have 3 early reader chapter books for ESL students coming out this year from the JLS Storybook Project. In the non-fiction realm, my partner Jared Hunt and I have co-authored 4 non-fiction books about writing and publishing that are coming out this spring and summer. These are paired with workshops we teach in each area, and for the next 12 months we'll be teaching these all over Canada. Between that, and keeping Gumboot Books running - that's more than enough to keep us out of trouble for the near future!
How do you promote yourself online and off?
I actually love building websites (yeah, really!) and so that's definitely the first place I start. Online marketing happens mainly through various social media channels: ning, facebook, twitter, linkedin, blogging and more. Offline, I spend most of my time either writing, teaching, or marketing books for our publishing company at events in person. This takes a variety of forms: doing readings at community events and bookstores, doing school visits, speaking at conferences, and teaching workshops.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
The best place to get more information is from my websites. My author website can be found at www.crystalstranaghan.com.
For information on Gumboot Books: www.gumbootbooks.ca
For information on the Self Publishing Network: www.selfpublishingnetwork.info
For information on the Live Your Dream Workshops: www.liveyourdreamworkshops.com
Excellent article! I especially like the family aspects that are mentioned here - what we write really has to come from a place we know well and I think that you do a nice job of describing that process here.
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